AMBITIOUS plans to make Newcastle a world-class shopping and leisure destination have taken a step forward with Newcastle City Council announcing a new operator to run the city’s Christmas markets.

Working with NE1, the city’s Business Improvement District, the council has appointed Mellors Group Events to run the festive markets for the next five years.

Mellors is a market leader in the management and delivery of quality, creative events, with vast experience of successfully running Christmas markets and other events both nationally and globally.

Their appointment followed a competitive tendering process to find the right operator to create a unique Christmas experience for Newcastle, complementing the city’s retail and hospitality sectors and increasing footfall in the city centre.

As with most major cities, Newcastle’s Christmas markets will be focussed on the six-weeks prior to and just after Christmas and will become an integral part of the city’s festive programme.

This will also include the ever-popular Christmas lights switch-on, Winter for Life at the Centre for Life, Fenwick Christmas window and special Christmas-themed events at the Grainger Market.

Although plans are yet to be finalised, the expanded markets will offer traditional stalls and a variety of attractions and entertainment across the Northumberland Street, Blackett Street and Monument areas. There will also be plenty of opportunities for local traders to collaborate directly with the new operator, with a significant representation of local producers, both food and non-food based.

Councillor Ged Bell, cabinet member for employment and investment said “I am delighted to welcome Mellors Group to the city and look forward to visiting the new markets this Christmas. It is vital our high streets are vibrant and offer a great experience for shoppers as this also helps to create more jobs and prosperity in the city.

“Our aim for Newcastle is to create an outstanding Christmas experience attracting additional visitors to the city and provides a solid foundation to grow our festive offer in future years.

“The increased footfall this will undoubtedly bring will be good for the local economy, which in turn benefits everyone who lives in the city. And by ensuring a large proportion of local traders are represented we can be confident they will also benefit from this new arrangement.”

Edward Mellors, a director of Mellors Group said “We are thrilled to be working with Newcastle City Council and NE1 delivering a high-quality Christmas event to the city. Nottingham's Winter Wonderland saw a 6 per cent increase in footfall to the city rather than the decline that other cities experienced last year.

“We are excited to be able to deliver quality and vibrancy to Newcastle’s Markets and look forward to growing the event year-on-year as we continue to establish and build our partnership.”